This page is all about 3 year old speech and language skills.  Keep in mind that these milestones are based on research about typically-developing children but this information is not meant to diagnose a speech-language delay or disorder.  There is a wide range of “normal” and just because your child is slightly delayed in a few of these areas, doesn’t necessarily mean he or she has a speech or language delay.  Please contact a speech-language pathologist for a screening if you are concerned about your child’s speech and language skills.  All norms are taken from the  Liguisystems Guide to Communication Milestones which sites the specific resources and research articles used to find each milestone.

Speech Sound Development:

Your 3-year-old should be consistently and correctly using all vowels and the following consonants:

  • /p/, /m/, /h/, /n/, /w/

In addition, your child should also no longer be doing the following things with sounds:

  • Deleting syllables from multi-syllabic words (such as saying “brella” for “umbrella”)
  • Deleting all sounds at the ends of words (such as “ca” for “cat”)

By 3 years of age, your child should be understood by an unfamiliar adult about 75% of the time.

Speech Sound Resource Page

Grammar Development:

  • Uses some pronouns (such as “I”, “it”, “me”, “my”, “mine”, “you”, “your”, “she”, “he”, “yours”, and “we”)

How to Teach the Pronouns “He” and “She”

  • Uses the “-ing” at the end of verbs (such as “running” and “jumping”)

How to Teach Present Progressive “-ing”

  • Is beginning to use these grammatical markers as well:
    • Plural “-s” (like socks)

How to Teach Plural “s” 

  • Past tense “-ed” (like jumped)

How to Teach Past Tense Verbs

Past Tense Verbs Flashcards

  • Possessive “’s” (like Mommy’s)

How to Teach Possessive “‘s”

  • Some helping verbs like “can”, “do”, “be”, “will”
  • Produces sentences with an average length of 3 words

Social Language/Pragmatic Skills

  • Watches other children and briefly joins in their play
  • Requests permission for items and activities
  • Begins to make simple play schemes, like playing house
  • Defends own possessions
  • Holds up fingers to tell age
  • Looks for missing toys

Literacy/Book Skills

  • Likes to listen to books/stories for longer periods of time

How to Read to Children for Language Development

  • Holds a book correctly
  • Begins to recognize logos (like the McDonald’s Golden Arches or a favorite food logo at the grocery store)
  • Is developing phonological awareness and pre-reading skills:

The Ultimate Guide to Phonological Awareness and Pre-Reading Skills

Concept Development:

  • Distinguishes between “in” and “under”
  • Understands (can point to when requested) number concepts of “one” and “two”
  • Understands size differences such as “big” and “little”
  • Understands “in”, “off”, “on”, “under”, “out of”, “together”, “away from”
  • Begins to understand the time concepts of “soon”, “later”, “wait”
  • Selects three that are the same out of a set of four objects
  • Begins to say adjectives for color and size

How to Teach a New Spatial Concept

Spatial Concepts Game

Vocabulary Development:

Your three-year-old should be able to say about 1,000 words.

Vocabulary Resource Page

Answering Questions:

  • Points to objects when described, such as “What do you wear on your head?”
  • Answers questions such as “Where…?”, “What’s that?”, “What’s ___ doing?”, “Who is…?”, and “Can you…?”
  • Asks simple questions about his/her wants and needs, such as “where cookie?”
  • Asks “where…?”, “what…?” and “what ____ doing?” questions

Asking Questions Resource Page

Listening Skills:

  • Responds to commands involving body parts, such as “show me your nose”
  • Follows simple two-step directions, such as “get your cup and give it to me”

How to Get a Child to Follow Directions

Following Directions Game

Find Out More!

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